110. Editorial Note

On October 14, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1981 (S. 2597) into law (P.L. 96–450). The law authorized the appropriation of funds for the intelligence community for the 1981 fiscal year. Additionally, it codified the interaction between the executive branch and Congress regarding covert actions by outlining congressional oversight and reducing the number of congressional committees to receive covert action information from eight to two—the House and Senate intelligence committees.

At the time of signing S. 2597 into law, Carter stated, “In addition to providing funds for a strong intelligence service, S. 2597 also contains legislation that modifies the so-called Hughes-Ryan amendment and establishes, for the first time in statute, a comprehensive system for congressional oversight of intelligence activities. This legislation, which will help to ensure that U.S. intelligence activities are carried out effectively and in a manner that respects individual rights and liberties, was an important part of the comprehensive intelligence charter on which this administration and the Congress have worked for over 2 years. Unfortunately, the press of other legislative matters prevented passage of the charter thus far in this session.

“The oversight legislation that was passed does not seek to alter the respective authorities and responsibilities of the executive and legislative branches, but rather codifies the current practice and relationship that has developed between this administration and the Senate and House intelligence committees over the past 3 years. This intent is evidenced by the language of the bill itself and the legislative history that stands behind it.

“It is noteworthy that in capturing the current practice and relationship, the legislation preserves an important measure of flexibility for the President and the executive branch. It does so not only by recog[Page 471]nizing the inherent constitutional authorities of both branches, but by recognizing that there are circumstances in which sensitive information may have to be shared only with a very limited number of executive branch officials, even though the congressional oversight committees are authorized recipients of classified information. Circumstances of this nature have been rare in the past; I would expect them to be rare in the future. The legislation creates the expectation that a sense of care and a spirit of accommodation will continue to prevail in such cases.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book III, pages 2232–2233)